Human Rights Defenders on the Case of the Karelian Blogger

Source: (info), 14/05/12

· Freedom of Speech  · Karelia

Human rights defenders are split over the case regarding Karelian blogger Maksim Efimov who has been charged with inciting hatred and is about to be placed in a psychiatric hospital for evaluation.

According to Liudmila Alekseeva, chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group, there are no grounds for placing Efimov in a psychiatric clinic.

"This is an old Soviet practice: people undesirable to the authorities are declared insane. It is completely illegal. Nobody has ever cast doubt on his (Efimov's) mental health, so why is he being evaluated?" quoted RIA Novosti.

Liudmila Alekseeva also believes that the criminal case being brought against the blogger is groundless.

Valery Borshchev, a member of the Moscow Helsinki Group, notes that in Soviet times "punitive psychiatry" was used against religious believers and now, conversely, it's the atheists who are being put into psychiatric hospitals.

Moreover, he believes that a "selective method" has been used in the case of Maksim Efimov. He points out that the broadcaster Aleksandr Nevzorov also spoke out critically against priests and the Russian Orthodox Church although "nobody is planning to put him into a psychiatric hospital and declare him mentally ill".

"Are there grounds to talk about inciting hatred? Should law-enforcement agencies be looking into it?" Valery Borshchev is quoted as saying by RIA Novosti, going on to remark that in his opinion there are no such grounds.

Chair of the Memorial Human Rights Centre Oleg Orlov disagrees with the opinion of his colleagues and believes that looking into whether the text "Karelia is tired of priests" incites hatred is perfectly justified.

"In my opinion, this text is unacceptable, (it is unacceptable) that a text like this should be in the public domain, whether that is in the media or as part of a general discussion on the Internet. Indeed, the text needs to be examined for incitement of hatred. Ultimately, the question of whether there is incitement or not should either be decided by the investigative agencies or the court," Oleg Orlov is quoted as saying in RIA Novosti.

"I want to point out that the issue here is not about judging priests, the Russian Orthodox Church or religious believers, however harshly. In fact anyone can make those kinds of judgements, which are not subject to any prosecution or punishment whatsoever. But writing something that religious believers will find offensive on the side of religious buildings or buildings where any form of worship takes place - these are actions which incite hatred," Oleg Orlov points out.

He also believes that there are grounds to carry out a psychiatric evaluation on Maksim Efimov. "In my opinion," says Oleg Orlov, "it is in principle procedurally possible to carry out a psychiatric examination upon application of the investigating officer. This is something that the court should determine. In the case in question, I do not see any kind of violation of rights."